The place to be for politicians and protesters

With help from Shawn Ness.

New from New York

Happening now:

  • Columbia University is now a gathering place for protesters and political leaders.
  • A new push for wage parity between upstate and New York City.
  • The sanitation union is calling for better health care for their workers. 
  • A new leader for the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.

The chaos at Columbia University has attracted the visits of national and local politicians.

COLUMBIA CONFABS: It’s the hottest spot in town — for politicians, too.

Columbia University is roiled in chaos. And Republicans nationally, along with some of New York’s further-left elected officials, see an opportunity to seize on the turmoil as they visit the campus one by one or in small like-minded groups.

The pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia University touch on a range of issues that particularly resonate with the Grand Old Party’s mainstream: a “woke,” out-of-touch college campus; a perception of disorder in urban centers; and the unfair demonization of Israel.

The hot-button issues are particularly underscored in New York, where more Jews call the city and state home than anywhere else outside of Israel. There’s also a slew of suburban House races in swing districts where the Israel-Hamas war has already proven to be central.

It has beckoned all sorts of leaders, mainly Republicans, to the university’s doorstep.

As of late:

And this afternoon, House Speaker Mike Johnson is headed to campus, doubling down on his call that the university’s president Minouche Shafik needs to step down. Reps. Nicole Malliotakis and Virginia Foxx are also expected to be there with him.

Hochul blasted Johnson’s visit to New York, saying the speaker is “politicizing” the events on the campus. The governor contrasted Johnson’s visit with her private meeting with Columbia officials and students — but she also posted a two-minute video about the meeting soon after.

In response, a Johnson spokesperson said maybe he wouldn’t have to visit if Hochul and other Democrats haven’t “completely failed in their duty to protect Jewish students and combat the rise of antisemitism in their party.”

It’s not just Republicans heading to the Morningside Heights neighborhood, though.

Reps. Dan Goldman, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Jared Moskowitz of Florida and Kathy Manning of North Carolina have made the trip to Columbia to denounce antisemitism spewed in and around campus.

Working Families Party councilmembers Tiffany Cabán, Alexa Avilés, Shahana Hanif and Sandy Nurse also visited but used it as an opportunity to pen an op-ed in City & State where they emphasized how the campus protests are peaceful.

“If you only go by the recent statements from Mayor Eric Adams, Gov. Kathy Hochul, and President Joe Biden, you might conclude that a student protest against the mass killing in Gaza is worse than the killing itself,” the group wrote.

GOP consultant Dave Catalfamo disagreed that the politicians’ presence at the campus should be viewed in political terms: “I know that we shouldn’t abide by that kind of hate speech, and I don’t really care about the politics, honestly. The politics takes care of itself on this.” Jason Beeferman

A new analysis has rejuvenated those that want wage parity with New York City and the rest of the state.

WAGE MAZE: An effort to increase New York’s minimum wage and unite the upstate hourly pay floor with the New York City area has so far faltered this year.

But now left-leaning advocates believe they have new fodder: The Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations has updated their statistical analysis of the economic impact of the proposed $21.25 wage.

The school’s Wage Atlas found the higher wage would lead to an $80 billion increase in combined earnings and boost consumer demand. It also asserts the move would lead to the creation of 75,000 jobs in the state.

Business organizations have viewed minimum wage increases dubiously and have warned that hiking the wage any further would lead to job losses, increased automation and further financial strain for small businesses.

The wage in New York City, Westchester County and on Long Island stands at $16 and is set at $15 in the rest of the state.

The wage will hit $17 in the New York City area and $16 north of Westchester by 2026, and future increases will be set to the rate of inflation.

But those increases could be suspended if unemployment in the state rises — another sore point for left-leaning advocates, lawmakers and labor unions who have tried to reverse that provision. — Nick Reisman

Mayor Eric Adams held a rally this morning to promote the city's budget.

BUDGET BATTLES AHEAD: Mayor Eric Adams reversed only a small portion of the $7.2 billion in cuts and saving initiatives he’s made over the last year in his $111.6 billion executive budget released today.

That’s leaving advocates for public libraries, early childhood education and parks to gird for further fights ahead of the June 30 deadline for fiscal year 2025.

Leaders of the city’s three library systems, for example, said they were “deeply disappointed” in the budget, claiming that most branches would only be open for five days a week if the cuts are kept in the budget.

But Adams’ messaging was entirely celebratory, announcing the budget with a rally outside City Hall, focusing on things that have improved in the city — “crime is down, jobs are up” — since Adams took office.

While focusing on a few, limited spending initiatives, he defended the cuts and conservative forecasting. “All of this and much more is possible,” he said, “because we ignored the critics and made hard choices when we had to.” — Jeff Coltin

OH, RATS, PART 2: As a continued increase of leptospirosis cases causes concern among New York City sanitation workers, the president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association is demanding more protections for them.

“Our sanitationmen and women come in every day to keep the city clean. They deserve to know they and their families will be protected if they get sick on the job,” President Harry Nespoli said in a statement.

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease that can target the kidney, liver, brain, lungs or heart and can be fatal and is largely spread via rat urine.

Twenty-four people were diagnosed with the disease in 2023, and five of them were sanitation workers.

Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato is sponsoring a bill that would provide more benefits for sanitation workers and their families, and Nespoli is urging the Legislature to adopt the measure. — Shawn Ness

Marguerite Wells will be the new executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.

NEW RENEWABLE ADVOCATE: The Alliance for Clean Energy New York, a leading voice for renewable energy developers in the state, has selected a longtime booster of the industry as its new leader.

Marguerite Wells will head up the organization as executive director, the group announced today.

“Her experience and expertise in the field of large-scale renewables in New York state is extensive,” said Keith Silliman, chair of the board of directors for ACE NY and director of regulatory compliance at Cypress Creek Renewables. “She will help guide us forward as we push to get shovels in the ground in order to meet our climate goals.”

Wells got her start in the renewables business in the state developing a small community wind project outside Ithaca that would have sold the power to Cornell University. Local opposition and delays stymied the project. Wells went on to work for Invenergy after the project fell apart in 2016.

Most recently she led Invenergy’s New York development efforts, overseeing a 2-gigawatt pipeline of projects, according to ACE. She also co-owns a small solar grazing business. Wells starts April 30. — Marie J. French

CASH RULES: Sales tax collections between January and March increased slightly in New York compared to the same time period last year, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office said.

The amount of money collected by the tax reached $5.6 billion — a 1.6 percent bump from a year ago during the same three-month span.

Much of that money came from New York City, the comptroller’s office said. Sales tax revenue is critical for local governments — it’s their top revenue source, even more than property taxes.

“The numbers from the city signal a healthy tax base and a return to its pre-pandemic role as a major driver of sales tax growth in the state,” DiNapoli said. “Collections outside the city were relatively flat, resulting from a variety of economic influences.” Nick Reisman

—  The collapse of three critical offshore wind projects is hammering New York’s ability to meet its climate goals. (POLITICO)

— President Joe Biden granted clemency to two New Yorkers, one from the Capital Region and another from the Hudson Valley. (State of Politics)

Donald Trump and ex-wife of Chris Cuomo both secured positive verdicts in unrelated cases by the state Court of Appeals. (Times Union)

Roy Walsh

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